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BR 375 .B9 1865 v. 1
Burnet, Gilbert, 1643-1715.
The history of the
reformation of the Church




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JL HE first step that was made in the reformation of this
Church was the restoring to your royal ancestors the rights of
the crown, and an entire dominion over all their subjects ; of
which they had been disseized by the craft and violence of an
unjust pretender : to whom the clergy, though your Majesty's
progenitors had enriched them by a bounty no less profuse
than ill-managed, did not only adhere, but drew with them the
laity, over whose consciences they had gained so absolute an
authority, that our kings were to expect no obedience from
their people, but what the popes were pleased to allow.

It is true, the nobler part of the nation did frequently in
parliament assert the regal prerogatives against those papal
invasions : yet these were but faint endeavours ; for an ill-
executed law is but an unequal match to a principle strongly
infused into the consciences of the people.

But how different was this from the teaching of Christ and
his apostles ! They forbade men to use all those arts by which
the papacy grew up, and yet subsists : they exhorted them to
obey magistrates, when they knew it would cost them their
lives : they were for setting up a kingdom, not of this world ;
nor to be attained, but by a holy and peaceable religion. If
this might every where take place, princes would find govern-
ment both easy and secure : it would raise in their subjects the
truest courage, and unite them with the firmest charity : it
would draw from them obedience to the laws, and reverence to
the persons of their kings. If the standards of justice and
charity, which the gospel gives, of doing as wo would be done
by, and loving our neighbours as ourselves, were made the
measures of men's actions, how steadily would societies be
governed, and how exactly would princes be obeyed !

The design of the reformation was to restore Christianity to
what it was at first, and to purge it of those corruptions, with
which it was overrun in the later and darker ages.

I [Charles II.]


Great Sir, this work was carried on by a slow and unsteady
progress under king Henry the Eighth ; it advanced in a fuller
and freer course under the short, but blessed reign of king
Edward ; was sealed with the blood of many martyrs under
queen Mary ; was brought to a full settlement in the happy
and glorious days of queen Elizabeth ; was defended by the
learned pen of king James: but the established frame of it,
under which it had so long flourished, was overthrown with
your Majesty's blessed father, who fell with it, and honoured it
by his unexampled suffering for it ; and was again restored to
its former beauty and order by your Majesty's happy return.

What remains to complete and perpetuate this blessing, the
composing of our differences at home, the establishing a closer
correspondence with the reformed churches abroad, the secur-
ing us from the restless and wicked practices of that party,
who hoped so lately to have been at the end of their designs ;
and that which can only entitle us to a blessing from God, the
reforming of our manners and lives, as our ancestors did our
doctrine and worship; all this is reserved for your Majesty,
that it may appear, that your royal title of Defender of the
Faith is no empty sound, but the real strength and glory of
your crown.

For attaining these ends, it will be of great use to trace the
steps of our first reformers ; for if the landmarks they set be
observed, we can hardly go out of the way. This was my
chief design in the following sheets, which I now most humbly
offer to your Majesty, hoping, that as you were graciously
pleased to command that I should have free access to all records
for composing them, so you will not deny your royal patronage
to the history of that work, which God grant your Majesty
may live to raise to its perfection, and to complete in your
reign, the glory of all your titles. This is a part of the most
earnest as well as the daily prayers of,

May it please your sacred Majesty,
Your Majesty's most loyal,
most faithful, and most

devoted subject and servant,



1 HERE is no part of history better received than the account
of great changes, and revolutions of states and governments, in
which the variety of unlooked-for accidents and events both
entertains the reader and improves him.

Of all changes, those in religion that have been sudden and
signal are inquired into with the most searching curiosity :
where the salvation of souls being concerned, the better sort
are much affected ; and the credit, honour, and interest of
churches and parties draw in these, who, though they do not
much care for the religious part, yet make noise about it to
serve other ends. The changes that were made in religion in
the last century have produced such effects every where, that
it is no wonder if all persons desire to see a clear account of
the several steps in which they advanced, of the counsels that
directed them, and the motives, both religious and political,
that inclined men of all conditions to concur in them. Germany
produced a Slcidan, France a Thuanus, and Italy a Friar
Paul, who have given the world as full satisfaction in what was
done beyond sea, as they could desire. And though the two
last lived and died in the communion of the church of Rome,
yet they have delivered things to posterity with so much can-
dour and evenness, that their authority is disputed by none but
those of their own party.

But while foreign churches have such historians, ours at
home have not had the like good fortune : for whether it was,
that the reformers at first presumed so far on their legal and
calm proceedings, on the continued succession of their clergy,
the authority of the law, and the protection of the prince, that
they judged it needless to write an history, and therefore em-
ployed their best pens, rather to justify what they did, than to
deliver how it was done ; or whether by a mere neglect the

b 2


thing was omitted ; we cannot determine. True it is, that it
was not done to any degree of exactness, when matters were so
fresh in men's memories, that things might have been opened
with greater advantages, and vouched by better authority,
than it is to be expected at this distance.

They were soon after much provoked by Sanders' ] history,
which he published to the world in Latin : yet, either despis-
ing a writer, who did so impudently deliver falsehoods, that
from his own book many of them may be disproved, or expect-
ing a command from authority, they did not then set about it.
The best account I can give of their silence is, that most of
Sanders' calumnies being levelled at queen Elizabeth, whose
birth and parents he designed chiefly to disgrace, it was
thought too tender a point by her wise counsellors to be much
inquired into : it gave too great credit to his lies, to answer
them ; an answer would draw forth a reply, by which those
calumnies would still be kept alive ; and therefore it was not
without good reason thought better to let them lie unanswered
and despised. From whence it is come, that in this age that
author is in such credit, that now he is quoted with much
assurance : most of all the writers in the church of Rome rely
on his testimony as a good authority. The collectors of the
general history of that age follow his thread closely ; some of
them transcribe his very words. One Pollini' 2 , a Dominican,
published an history of the changes that were made in England,
in Italian, at Rome, anno 1594, which he should more ingenu-
ously have called a translation or paraphrase of Sanders'
history : and of late more candidly, but no less maliciously, one
of the best pens of France has been employed to translate him
into their language ; which has created such prejudices in the
. minds of many there, that our reformation, which generally
was more modestly spoken of, even by those who wrote against
it, is now looked on by such as read Sanders, and believe him,
as one of the foulest things that ever was.

1 [Sanderus (Nicolaus). De Cologne 1628, which is the edition

origine et progressu schismatis An- used by Burnet, and referred to in

glicani libri tres, Colon. 8vo. 1585. this edition.]

It was reprinted at Rome in 1586, 2 [Pollini (Girolamo). L' historia
8vo, with alterations, and several ecclesiastica della rivoluzion d' In-
other editions have appeared, of ghilterra, 4to Rom. 1594.]
which perhaps the best is that of


Fox 3 , for all his voluminous work, bad but few things in his
eye when he made his collection, and designed only to discover
the corruptions and cruelties of the Roman clergy, and the
sufferings and constancy of the reformers. But his work was
written in baste, and there are so many defects in it, that it
can by no means be called a complete history of these times ;
though I must add, that, having compared his Acts and Monu-
ments with the records, I have never been able to discover any
errors or prevarications in them, but the utmost fidelity and
exactness. Parker 4 , archbishop of Canterbury, designed only
in his account of the British Antiquities to do justice and
honour to his see, and so gives us barely the Life of Cranmer,
with some few and general hints of what he did. Hall 5 was
but a superficial writer, and was more careful to get full in-
formations of the clothes that were worn at the interviews
of princes, justs, tournaments, and great solemnities, than
about the counsels or secret transactions of the time he lived
in. Holinshed 6 , Speed 7 , and Stow 8 , give bare relations of
things that were public, and commit many faults. Upon their
scent most of our later writers have gone, and have only
collected and repeated what they wrote.

The lord Herbert 9 judged it unworthy of him to trifle as
others had done, and therefore made a more narrow search
into records and original papers than all that had gone before

3 [Foxe (John). Actes and Monu- 1577, reprinted in 1586-7.]
ments &c. touching matters of the 7 [Speed (John). The History of
Church, &c. fol. Lond. 1563.] Great Britain under the conquests

4 [Parker (Math.) De Antiquitate of the Romans, Saxons, Danes, and
Britannicas Ecclesiae et privilegiis Normans ; London, fol. 161 1, re-
Ecclesia? Cantuariensis, fol. Lond. printed in 16 14 and 1623.]

1572. It was reprinted in 1605 and 8 [Stow (John). Annales, or a

1729.] generall Chronicle of England ; be-

5 [Hall (Edward). The union of gun by J. Stow, continued and aug-
the two noble and illustre famelies mented by Edm. Howes. London,
of Lancastre and Yorke— with al the fol. 1631. This work was first
actes done in both the tymes of the printed in 4to. London, (1592),
princes — beginnyng at the tyme of without date.]

kyng Henry the fowerth, and pro- 9 [Herbert (lord Edward, of Cher-

ceiding to the reigne of kyng Henry bury). The Life and Raig'ne of King

the eight. Fol. London, 1550.] Henry VIII. fol. Lond. 1649. It

6 [Holingshed (Raphaell). The was reprinted several times and ap-
Chronicles of Englandc, Scotlande, pears in Kennett's History of Eng-
and Irelande. London, 2 vols. fol. land.]


him ; and with great fidelity and industry has given us the
history of king Henry the Eighth. But in the transactions
that concern religion, he dwells not so long as the matter re-
quired, leaving those to men of another profession, and judging
it perhaps not so proper for one of his condition to pursue a
lull and accurate deduction of those matters.

Since he wrote, two have undertaken the ecclesiastical his-
tory ; Fuller 10 and Hey lin 11 . The former got into his hands
some few papers, that were not seen before he published them ;
but being a man of fancy, and affecting an odd way of writing,
his work gives no great satisfaction. But doctor Heylin wrote
smoothly and handsomely, his method and style are good, and
his work was generally more read than any thing that had
appeared before him : but cither he was very ill-informed, or
very much led by his passions ; and he being wrought on by
most violent prejudices against some that were concerned in
that time, delivers many things in such a manner, and so
strangely, that one would think he had been secretly set on to
it by those of the church of Rome, though I doubt not he was
a sincere protestant, but violently carried away by some par-
ticular conceits. In one thing he is not to be excused, that he
never vouched any authority for what he writ, which is not to
be forgiven any who write of transactions beyond their own
time, and deliver new things not known before. So that upon
what grounds he wrote a great deal of his book we can only
conjecture, and many in their guesses are not apt to be very
favourable to him.

Things being delivered to us with so much alloy and uncer-
tainty, those of the church of Rome do confidently disparage
our reformation : the short history of it, as it is put in their
mouths, being, that it was begun by the lusts and passions of
king Henry the Eighth, carried on by the ravenousness of the
duke of Somerset under Edward the Sixth, and confirmed by
the policy of queen Elizabeth and her council to secure her
title. These things being generally talked and spread abroad
in foreign parts, especially in France, by the new translation

10 [Fuller (Thomas). The Church " [Heylin (Peter). Ecclesia Re-
History of Britain from the birth of staurata, or the History of the
Jesus Christ until the year 1648. Reformation of the Church of Eng-
fol. Lond. 1655.] land. London, fol. 1661.]


of Sanders 12 , and not being yet sufficiently cleared, many have
desired to see a fuller and better account of those transactions
than has yet been given; so the thing being necessary, I was
the more encouraged to set about it by some persons of great
worth and eminence, who thought I had much leisure and
other good opportunities to go through with it, and wished
me to undertake it. The person 13 that did engage me chiefly
to this work, was on many accounts much fitter to have under-
taken it himself, being the most indefatigable in his industry,
and the most judicious in his observations, of any I know, and
is one of the greatest masters of style now living. But being
engaged in the service of the church, in a station that affords
him very little leisure, he set me on to it, and furnished me
with a curious collection of his own observations. And in
some sort this work may be accounted his, for he corrected it
with a most critical exactness ; so that the first materials, and
the last finishing of it, are from him. But after all this I lie
under such restraints from his modesty, that I am not allowed
to publish his name.

I had two objections to it, besides the knowledge of my own
unfitness for such a work. One was, my unacquaintedness
with the laws and customs of this nation, not being born in
it 14 : the other was, the expense that such a search as was
necessary required, which was not easy for me to bear. My
acquaintance with the most ingenious master William Petyt,
counsellor of the Inner Temple, cleared one difficulty ; he
offering me his assistance and direction, without which I must
have committed great faults. But I must acknowledge myself
highly obliged by the favour and bounty of the honourable
master of the rolls, sir Harbottle Grimstone, of whose worth
and goodness to me I must make a large digression, if I would
undertake to say all that the subject will bear : the whole
nation expressed their value of him, upon the most signal
occasion, when they made him their mouth and speaker in that

12 [A translation of Sanders' was, at the time of the first publica-
book had been printed in 1587, 8vo. tion of this volume, dean of Bangor,
without the name of the place of afterwards successively bp. of S.
publication ; the translation here Asaph, Lichfield and Coventry, and
referred to was published at Paris in Worcester.]

i2mo. 1676. 14 [He was born at Edinburgh,

13 [This was William Lloyd, who Sept. 18, 1643.]


blessed assembly which called home their king ; after which
real evidence all little commendations may be well forborne.
The obligations he has laid on me are such, that, as the grati-
tudc and service of my whole life is the only equal return I
can make for them ; so, as a small tribute, I judge myself
obliged to make my acknowledgments in this manner, for the
leisure I enjoy under his protection, and the support I receive
from him : and if this work does the world any service, the
best part of the thanks is due to him, that furnished me with
particular opportunities of carrying it on. Nor must I conceal
the nobleness of that renowned promoter of learning, Mr. Boyle,
who contributed liberally to the expense this work put me to.

Upon these encouragements I set about it, and began with
the search of all public records and offices, the parliament and
treaty rolls, with all the patent rolls, and the registers of the
sees of Canterbury and London, and of the augmentation office.
Then I laid out for all the MSS. I could hear of, and found
things beyond my expectation in the famous Cotton library,
where there is such a collection of original papers relating to
theso times, as perhaps the world can show nothing like it. I
had also the favour of some MSS. of great value, both from
the famous and eminently learned doctor Stillingfleet, who
gave me great assistance in this work, and from Mr. Petyt and
others. When I had looked these over, I then used all the
endeavours I could to gather together the books that were
printed in those days, from which I not only got considerable
hints of matters of fact, but (that which I chiefly looked for)
the arguments upon which they managed the controversies
then on foot, of which I thought it was the part of an ecclesias-
tical historian to give an account, as I could recover them, that
it may appear upon what motives and grounds they proceeded.
The three chief periods of Henry the Eighth's reign, in
which religion is concerned, are, first, from the beginning of
his reign, till the process of his divorce with queen Catharine
commenced. The second is from that, till his total breaking
off from Home, and setting up his supremacy over all causes
and persons. The third is from that to his death.

When I first set about this work, I intended to have carried
on the History of the Reformation to the reign of queen Eliza-
beth, in which it was finished and fully settled ; but I was


forced to change that resolution. The chief reason, among
many others, was, that I have not yet been able to discover
such full informations of what passed under the succeeding
reigns as were necessary for a history ; and though I have
searched the public registers of that time, yet I am still in the
dark myself in many particulars. This made me resolve on
publishing this volume first, hoping, that those, in whose
hands any manuscripts or papers of that time lie, will, from
what is now performed, be encouraged to communicate them :
or if any have made a considerable progress in those col-
lections, I shall be far from envying them the honour of such a
work, in which it had been inexcusable vanity in me to have
meddled, if the desires of others, who have great power over
me, had not prevailed with me to set about it ; and therefore,
though I have made a good advance in the following part of
the work, I shall most willingly resign it up to any who will
undertake it, and they shall have the free use of all my papers.
But if none will set about it, who yet can furnish materials
towards it, I hope their zeal for carrying on so desired a work
will engage them to give all the help to it that is in their

There is only one passage belonging to the next volume,
which I shall take notice of here, since from it I must plead
my excuse for several defects, which may seem to be in this
work. In the search I made of the rolls and other offices, I
wondered much to miss several commissions, patents, and other
writings, which by clear evidence I knew were granted, and
yet none of them appeared on record. This I could not impute
to any thing but the omission of the clerks, who failed in the
enrolling those commissions, though it was not likely that
matters of so high concernment should have been neglected,
especially in such a critical time, and under so severe a king.
But as I continued down my search to the fourth year of queen
Mary, I found, in the twelfth roll of that year, a commission,
which cleared all my former doubts, and by which I saw what
was become of the things I had so anxiously searched after.
We have heard of the expurgation of books practised in the
church of Home ; but it might have been imagined, that public
registers and records would have been safe : yet, lest these
should have been afterwards confessors, it was resolved they


should then be martyrs ; for on the 29th of December, in the
fourth year of her reign, a commission was issued out under the
great seal to Bonner bishop of London, Cole dean of St. Paul's,
and Martine a doctor of the civil law, which is of that import-
ance, that I shall here insert the material words of it : WJiereas
it is come to our knowledge, that in the time of the late schism
divers compts, books, scrolls, instruments, and other writings,
were practised, devised, and made, concerning professions
against the pope's holiness, and the see apostolic, and also
sundry infamous scrutinies taken in abbeys and other religious
houses, tending rather to subvert and overthrow all good
religion and religious houses, than for any truth contained
therein : which being in the custody of divers registers, and
we intending to have those writings brought to knowledge,
whereby they may be considered, and ordered according to
our will and pleasure ; thereupon, those three, or any two of
them, are empowered to cite any j^rsons before them, and
examine them upon the premises upon oath, and to bring all
such writings before them, and certify their diligence about it
to cardinal Pole, that further order might be given about

When I saw this, I soon knew which way so many writings
had gone : and as I could not but wonder at their boldness,
who thus presumed to raze so many records ; so their ingenuity
in leaving this commission in the rolls, by which any who
had the curiosity to search for it, might be satisfied how the
other commissions were destroyed, was much to be commended.
Yet in the following work it will appear that some few papers
escaped their hands.

I know it is needless to make great protestations of my
sincerity in this work. These are of course, and are little
considered ; but I shall take a more effectual way to be believed,
for I shall vouch my warrants for what I say, and tell where
they are to be found. And having copied out of records and
MSS. many papers of great importance, I shall not only insert
the substance of them in the following work, but at the end of
it shall give a collection of them at their full length, and in the
language in which they were originally written : from which,
as the reader will receive full evidence of the truth of this
history ; so he will not be ill pleased to observe the genius and


way of the great men in that time, of which he will be better
able to judge, by seeing their letters, and other papers, than
by any representation made of them at second hand. They
are digested into that order in which they are referred to in
the History.

It will surprise some to see a book of this bigness written of
the history of our reformation under the reign of king Henry
the Eighth ; since the true beginnings of it are to be reckoned
from the reign of king Edward the Sixth, in which the articles

Online LibraryGilbert BurnetThe history of the reformation of the Church of England (Volume 1) → online text (page 1 of 61)